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Gary Barlow: A Different Stage - Nottingham Playhouse Review

As soon as Gary Barlow walks onto the stage to screams from his adoring audience you know you're in for a different night than your usual gig. The Take That frontman walks out at Nottingham Playhouse with a coffee mug in hand and ready to deliver the audience a story.

Photo by Claire Kramer Mackinnon

A Different Stage encapsulates Gary's life story from his beginnings to his rise to fame and to Take That's reunions to the present day. It never really feels egotistical and he always appears grateful for the experiences that shaped him.

The first act begins in the 1970s and the day Gary was born and follows the beginnings as Gary discovered his first tastes in music and his own playing career began in local village halls and British Legions. He inevitably gets noticed through his performance and also his writing skills. The moments you expect are there, a young man meets 4 others and Take That are born and much more. Some of the grittier details are probably missing and moments are passed over such as what everyone really thought as Robbie Williams left the group.

That said the grittier moments aren't missing in a very open second act. Gary opens up about his battles with his weight and quite a bleak talk about his bulimia which he describes as being "a professional bulimic". Then after battling back and at the height of Take That's reunion, Gary sadly loses his Dad and he described how this grief affected him.

If that was a sad moment in the show, the most heartbreaking moment comes as Gary opens up about the loss of his daughter Poppy Barlow who was delivered stillborn in 2012. It's clearly something that still sits with him and you can see tears in his eyes as he talks about her. The experience does become an epiphany for him though, it gives him a new perspective on life and changes how he feels about things, especially learning to say no and to block out criticism.

Photo by Claire Kramer Mackinnon

The bare stage bar a set of touring cases aids in Gary's delivery as they're filled with props that help set the scene. Then of course there is the piano and keyboard which is an integral part of Gary's life and has shaped many moments of his life. 

Music is a central figure in the show and in Gary's life but this isn't a show full of songs. There are often snippets where Gary sits down and delivers a few lines of one of Take That's or his own solo hits. Gary's vocals are magnificent. His clear crisp delivery of 'Rule The World' is a stand-out moment though there is a raucous medley towards the finale that features numbers such as 'Never Forget' and 'Relight My Fire'.

A Different Stage is full of heart, humour, and emotion and this snapshot delights Gary's loyal fan base but works perfectly for outsiders too. It's a fascinating well-told autobiographical story weaved together by Gary and Tim Firth. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Different Stage plays at Wolverhampton Grand from 16th to 20th November 2022 and at London's Savoy Theatre on Monday 21st and Monday 28th November 2022. Limited ticket availability remains

Photo by Claire Kramer Mackinnon

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